Wandering Thoughts This Past Week – My Working Days, NBC in NYC,1948-55

Gardening.  Last week in a belated endeavor to help Jeannie and Lisle get our yard ready for a food truck party on our lawn this coming Friday, I decided to do some pruning of dead bushes, and pull weeds.  Every so often I make the mistake of forgetting my age and this was one of the times.  Did get almost all the job done.  But – “for every action there is a reaction.”  Oh so true.  My hands, and particularly my fingers, are so sore that I am having trouble  typing some five days later….and, the pain in my lower back is slowly subsiding.  So much for the words said many years ago by a major athlete, baseball I think,” Age is only mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”  I didn’t mind, and it does matter!

Barbara Bush.  I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely lady of several occasions.     The first time was in Greenwich, CT.   George Bush, who was in the oil business in Texas, and  his wife Barbara were visiting his parents.  The Jeffery brothers went to the same Greenwich school as the Bush men.  Some old school friends had a party to which I went with your Dad.  I remember speaking quite some time with Mrs. Bush, probably because   she nor I had attended the school, nor were we from Greenwich.  As I remember most of the guests had school connections.

While we were living in Cali, Vice President Bush and his wife, Barbara, came to Colombia.  Because of  your Dad’s business position, we were invited to a reception at the US Embassy in Bogotá.  Security was very strict.   We came with our driver/body guard, who had to leave us quite a distance from the Embassy.  Before we began our long walk, ID’s were requested.  I had left all of mine in the hotel, being told to bring only a very small purse and assuming Scott’s ID would work for both of us.  The only ID I had was, for some strange reason, my Club Campestre card.  After much wrangling they finally let us through the check point.  At this point, as is usual in Bogota, it began to drizzle.  In high heels, walking on slippery cobble stone streets,  I muttered not too graciously, “If George Bush was not an old friend of your’s, I would refuse to go any further.”  Going  through the reception line,  Scott  reached Vice President Bush, and said, “Welcome to Colombia, Mr. Vice President .” to which Vice President Bush started to laugh and said, “Scotty, what are you doing here?” They had not seen each other in years.  Amazing memory.  At this reception, Barbara Bush delighted and charmed everyone with her open, friendly, warm attitude. NO, she did not remember me from that party some 20 years earlier, not did I mention it to her.

The last time was after we returned to the States, and then President Bush and Mrs. Bush were in Jacksonville for a fund-raiser for son, Jeb, who was running for Governor of FL.  Once again he remembered Scott.  Jeannie was with us and I will let her tell her story. of his comments to her.  Mrs. Bush was graciously and valiantly standing by his side as photos were taken with each guest.  I do not know how she did it so well  all those years. I did not talk to her this time.   I could only think, “What a great wife and mother.!”

Sawgrass Member/Guest Tennis Tournament.  Had a wonderful time Friday  afternoon and Saturday.  Jeannie invited Vicky Koele Bryan to be her guest.  Inge Koele, Vicky’s mother came with her to join me in cheering our daughters on.   Staci Marbut Manis also  came to watch.  All three women attended the Colegio Bolivar in Cali, Colombia, and Inge was one of the best teachers we had at the school .  We spent as much time reminiscing as we did watching tennis.  Jeannie, Vicky, and Staci gave a rousing rendition of the Bolivar Anthem before play began.  Amazing they could still remember the words.  Such fun and what wonderful memories.

 

My first job. NBC,  after finishing Virginia Intermont College, Indiana University, and  finally  The Katherine Gibbs School in New York City.

Katherine Gibbs was basically a secretarial school, but it really was much more than that.  Professors from Colombia and NYU were brought in to lecture on various business subjects, which gave us a better understanding of the business world, and encouraged us to think about being something more than a secretary some day.  Also, graduating from this school really was a guarantee to getting a secretarial job.  We were able to skip the secretarial pool.

When I began at NBC, 1948, radio was still the major producer of shows. Yes, my dear children and grandchildren…..back in the dark ages.  Not everyone had a TV set, but those that did, only received shows for about 3 hours in the early evening hours.  The screen size was three or six inches, and black and white only.

I worked for one of the executives in the Radio Recording department.  Some shows were recorded  to be played later.  Some were recordings of live shows.  All recordings were archived, just as today all TV shows are saved in some digital form.

The most challenging part of my job was filing.   I lived in fear the first weeks of my job was that I would be fired for losing some important paper.  I came in several weekends to acquaint myself with the files.

I cannot remember my succession of jobs.  I do remember when I first was moved to work for Dick Pack, head of local programming.  That, and all subsequent jobs were challenging and interesting, with a parade of unusual people, almost of all of whom I have lost contact, but many of whom I shall always remember.  Mr. Pack was very talented, and unique.  I always carried my steno pad with me as he would pass me in the hallway and say, “Pat, take a memo.”  He was the originator of he Tonight show.

Some highlights I remember.  Thanks to Dick Pack, I was able to watch one of the first transmissions of TV in color.  When the peacock tail unfurled, I literally gasped it was so beautiful.  Also, I worked on the crew for two presidential  elections.  The one I remember was when Truman beat Dewey.  I was working some sort of phone over which I received results which I wrote down and someone took to the announcers.  I remember H V Kaltenborn broadcasting that Dewey was winning, and I was sitting at my tiny information post thinking, “I don’t think so.?”  We were finally sent home in the wee hours of the morning.  When I came back to work at 9 am, people were still at work.  What an  upset!

Bobbi and I have often talked about the challenges of being a woman in the entertainment field at that time.  Neither of us remember being harassed in a sexual  manner.  We have had many a good laugh these past years thinking about quite a few men who very possibly might be worried in the current ambience of “me too,” etc.  There were some men with whom we were careful never to encourage.  One man would frequently ask us to his apartment for dinner, and we just laughed as we said no.  One would come into my office and say, “Aha, I have you cornered.”  I never sat still to find out if he was serious and I could move faster than he.  But neither of us can remember the kind of overt sexual threats we are hearing about today.

I worked from 1948 to the end of 1955.  Bobbi worked quite a few years more.  Then left with the Howdy Doody crew to form their own company.  Enid stayed much longer. She became a TV director and indicated harassment.  I always thought it was more aptly described as  discrimination because she was a woman,  in a mainly male-oriented job, and had  to fight her way up the ranks.

Certainly there was resistance, even perhaps open harassment,  against some women in certain jobs.  Bobbi was an accomplished production assistant, but was passed over by an inept man, just because they wanted a man in the job.  Some years later he was fired.

In publicity, I had good mentoring from my former boss, Dick Pack.  I never drank with the boys at the bar.  Entertaining the editors and columnists of the various NYC newspapers was essential to get the publicity coverage my boss wanted.  I always planned to do so for lunch or with the editor and his wife for dinner and theatre.  One entertainment editor did not like the heavy luncheons nor the booze,  so I suggested he get tickets to one of the hit movies, and I would bring a really good lunch.  We would meet at the theatre, watch the movie at lunch time.

What Bobbie and I remember is that we loved going to work.  We would get up in the morning and look forward to the day.  It was fun!  There were always lots of laughs.  Bobbi one day found some fake money in packs.  She took a trolley and rolled it down the hall, shouting, “Pay Day,” and throwing the money through the office doors.   One of the publicity guys would dance from desk to desk on Friday nights when we discussed where to go eat.  I doubt if any of this would be accepted today.  I felt we were paid OK.  I could afford a nice apartment in Manhattan, could eat in good restaurants., enjoy the good life in NYC.

My first apartment right out of Katherine Gibbs was a summer rental in an area called Hell’s Kitchen. We rented a furnished “railroad ” apartment.   I think the name came from the long hallway with bedrooms off the hallway.  This was not one of the better areas of NYC.  I am trying to remember my roommates , but there were four of us.  Today this area is an expensive area in which to live.  This was a summer rental.  Our landlord and his wife went someplace every summer. It was an experience to know him.  He told some very entertaining tales of his life growing up in this neighborhood.  What an education for this small-town Midwest girl.

In the fall, three of us rented a much smaller apartment on West 57th Street between 9th and 10th.  Any further west and we would have been in the river.  Still not a top neighborhood  It was very small, with only one bedroom.  But, we were “moving on up.”  The bedroom was really small, but we managed to squeeze in one single bed and one bunk bed.

Final stop.   I lived in a really attractive building in mid-Manhattan on Third Avenue  with a garden in the center and doors off the garden leading to various stores.  There was also a delightful  restaurant  in the building where for some reason college students would meet and sing.  Loved to hear them.  We assumed they had all been in singing groups in college .  The really plus part was that I could walk to and from work!

When I think of the problems my grandchildren have today living in NYC, I can only think,”How fortunate I was!”  Life is so much more expensive today!  All but one grandchild live in Brooklyn and take the long subway ride into Manhattan every day.

But there are always pros and cons in everything.  Living in NYC today is still exhilarating!  Much to do and see and experience .  The job market seems to be something else.  I do not sense the joy from them that I felt in the workplace.  I could be wrong.  Certainly women today are better educated than we were , more sure of themselves and what they can do.   The can aspire for better jobs and certainly have many more opportunities are available to them.    Each generation  has to, and will, make their own way.

 

One thought on “Wandering Thoughts This Past Week – My Working Days, NBC in NYC,1948-55

  1. I am delighted reading the articles of your blog Mrs. Jeffery. Jeannie must be a very proud daughter! And you, yourself, have to be very proud woman too! ❤

    Like

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